Muse• Evanescence• w/ Highly Suspect• April 20, 2023• Vivint Arena
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
Muse brought the U.S. leg of their Will Of The People Tour to a close right here in Salt Lake City on Thursday April 20. I’ve seen tour openers many times. Often, they’ll have some sound issues, or other technical kinks to work out, but they usually go over pretty well. I’m sure behind the scenes they’re seeing a lot more going on than we do in the crowd. I haven’t seen a lot of tour closers but when I have the band seems a little road weary, or mentally already on vacation. This was not the case with Muse, Evanescence, or Highly Suspect. You would think they were all in mid tour mode with how well this tour flowed.
I remember many a hundred years ago, when I was in a play. There were a lot of actors that were going to to closing night pranks. We had done the show a million times (There are zero exagerations in this paragraph), and they thought it would be fun to mix things up for the tour closer. I recall the director giving a pre show speech about this on our closing night. He mentioned that even though we had done the show many times, there would be people in the audience who would be watching for the first time. We were told that they deserved our best performance and one without pranks and inside jokes. That stuck with me.
I’m not sure if Muse got a pre show speech from my old director, but it was clear that they wanted to give us as good a show, as the rest of the States received. There didn’t appear to be any road weriness, phoning it in, or autopilot. The show was epic! (For sake of full disclosure, I as “Townsperson #1” had no intention of doing any pranks back in the day.).
Rock band, Highly Suspect got things off on the right foot. I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth restating that it is not easy to open an arena show. People are still trickling in and warming up for a show. That’s the openers job. To get the fans blood going and get them ready for the headliner. Highly Suspect seemed unphased by the half-full arena and floor. I’m sure it’s something they had seen throughout the tour. Frontman, Johnny Stevens high energy got the crowd into the set. He mentioned that he was sad the tour was ending and that the band was grateful to Muse for having them on their tour. He got the crowd excited for Evanescence. But they still had work to do in their own set. They ripped through their six song set, playing their Grammy nominated songs, “Lydia” and “My Name is Human”.
Something I really enjoyed, especially for an opener, was to see people in the audience not only indulging the band with their attention, but also getting into the show. There was a long night ahead, but people didn’t seem to mind getting into Highly Suspect’s set. The guy next to me knew every word to every one of their songs. If I hadn’t seen how he reacted to Muse, I would have thought the was there exclusively for Highly Suspect. The band did their job, and the now filled out crowd was ready for Evanescence.
Utah Concert Review has covered Evanescence before, but this would be my first time seeing the Hard Rock band in person. When I saw Evanescence would be touring with Muse I thought about what a good pairing that was. It had never crossed my mind before, but while they sound vastly different, they were a good fit. I figured Evanescence would be a good live band, but I had no idea what I was in store for.
First of all, I feel dumb even saying this, but Amy Lee, is incredible live. I’m sure the millions upon millions of you reading this are in unison thinking “Duh”. And you’d be correct. I knew she’d be good. But she was beyond. I just couldn’t get over how great she sounded. I still can’t. I’ve talked to friends since who were also at the concert and while we raved and raved about Muse, we kept coming back to Lee and her voice. She not only sounds great, but there is so much emotion and passion in her vocals that after every song the roar of the crowd was of a sound of just total amazement. I felt like they wanted to make sure that she knew that they understood what she was doing was awe-inspiring.
Evanescence has gone through a number of lineup changes over the years. I’m not someone who can say which is best or not. I thought these guys sounded fantastic. Not only did they sound great but they looked like they were enjoying themselves and each other. I think that can make a huge difference in a performance. I thought songs like “Broken Pieces Shine” from their latest album The Bitter Truth meshed really well with early material like “Call Me When You’re Sober”.
As the 14-song set flew by, Amy Lee took some moments to share special messages with the crowd. She told the audience to not let anyone speak for them. “Everything has been so beyond f*¢ked up these past few years and every time we think it’s about to start getting better, something else f*¢ked up happens. I know we’re all tired of fighting. But I just want to say that you are worth it. Hope is worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for. So when you know in your heart was is right, keep fighting for each other. We’re all we got. One voice might seem like much but with all of us together we make a loud sound! Are you with me?!” I could see many in the crowd inspired and cheering her on.
The set ended with two huge hits for Evanescence. The first was “My Immortal”. Lee thanked the crowd for 20 years as this year was celebrating 20 years since their first album was released. It was funny when she said that because I could see people who had been fans of Evanescence since then being blown away that it’s been that long. People suddenly felt a bit older than they had a minute prior. “My Immortal” was performed perfectly. Phone lights illuminated Vivint Arena. Is there a more perfect song to do that to? Doubtful. Lee mentioned that she usually had to suggest to the audience to hold up their lights but the Utah crowd was already doing it. There was a new nostalgia in the air. And people were totally in the moment.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that “Bring Me To Life” was the closer. Seeing this was my first time seeing Evanescence, this would of course be my first time hearing the song in person. I had read that the song was usually performed without the male vocal part since the song was originally written that way and guest vocalist Paul McCoy of 12 Stones was brought in for that song. I have seen this version performed on YouTube videos and I still really enjoyed the song.
To my surprise, before the bridge of the song began, Highly Suspect frontman, Johnny Stevens walked on stage and did Paul McCoy’s part. The crowd went nuts! Stevens brought the energy that he had displayed in the opening set. Both Lee and Stevens took to the long catwalk and went back and forth as if they were dueling. It gave me chills. It was a huge moment! While I was waiting for Muse to take the stage I spoke with Highly Suspect’s photographer about Stevens joining in “Bring Me To Life”. He told me that they had only started doing about four shows prior to ours. It was such a cool surprise and an awesome way to fire up the crowd leading into Muse!
This would be my fourth time seeing Muse. Three of the times being in Vivint Arena and once over at USANA Amphitheatre. Arenas are a suitable place for the British rock band. It had been four years since Muse played Utah. I was happy to be there for the Simulation Theory Tour. It was a show I haven’t forgotten about. It only made me want to see Muse again. So I’m sure you can imagine how long this wait has felt. I love reviewing and photographing concerts. I enjoy covering all types of bands. But there is something about covering a band you listen to that totally adds to the excitement of the experience.
As I waited by the railing, waiting to be admitted into the pit near the catwalk, I just looked around at all the excited fans. Just then “Clearest Blue” by CHVRCHES played. The crowd got excited and many started to dance. The volume went up, indicating that we were moments away from Muse taking the stage. Right when the big breakdown of “Clearest Blue” happened, people on the floor started jumping as if this was part of the concert. We were so ready! Not long after, the lights went out!
Intro music began and as the members of Muse got into place the letters W, O, T, and P flamed up behind the drum kit. A pulsing drum began and “Will of the People” started off the show. The band donned masks that have been seen throughout videos of songs from the Will Of The People album. It was cool to see them all looking the same when the lights came up. I like when bands open up with songs from the new album. It’s a solid strategy. People are excited to see the band take the stage. So playing a new song, especially a good one totally works. Then everyone gets settled in and is excited to hear their favorites.
Muse wasted no time getting to the hits! It’s a strange dichotomy to be photographing a band that you really like. For the first three songs, there is no one in the arena closer to the band than me and the other photographers. We’re in front of the front row! So I’m sure you can imagine being a huge fan and being in that position but wanting to stay totally professional. Well, wanting to go nuts with the rest of the thousands of fans, but finding it necessary to be professional. Now picture being in that situation when bassist Chris Wolstenholme walks all the way to the end of the catwalk and begins his face melting bass solo to begin “Hysteria”! I almost lost it. “Hysteria” for their second song?! I couldn’t help myself. With my eye looking through the viewfinder of my camera, I yelled out my approval.
This show did not lack in production. From the get-go, there were lights everywhere, pyro, confetti, and really cool video art. It was a visual feast. This show had it all. Including a robot leaf blower. In past concerts, when there is confetti a roadie will come out with a leaf blower and blow all of the confetti off the stage or catwalk. But on this night, a robot leaf blower moved its way down the catwalk and cleared the way. Muse thinks of everything. And I mean everything. During a video interlude, the stage went dark.
When the lights went back up a huge masked figure was the backdrop. I’m assuming it was an inflated prop. But it didn’t look like a blowup at all. It was huge with a moving hand. Muse spared no expense to bring a state-of-the-art show to their fans. Later in the show the masked figure left and was replaced by a huge demon-like beast. Again, massive in size totally filling the back of the stage.
The setlist was well-curated. Muse mixed in a plethora of hits with songs from Will Of The People. If I’m being honest seven songs from their new album was maybe two too many. I understand it’s the album this tour is supporting and the songs were good. It’s just difficult not to think of two or three songs they might have done from their back catalog. All that being said, in the moment, I loved the set. Muse has so many great anthemic songs. “Map of the Problematique”, “Time Is Running Out”, Plug In Baby”, and “Supermassive Black Hole” were huge with fans while newer songs like, “Thought Contagion”, “Won’t Stand Down” and, “Kill or Be Killed” fit right in with the classics.
“Uprising” gets me fired up every time I hear it. It feels like a rallying cry and a song that unites the audience. Hearing thousands and thousands of people cry out, “They Will Not Force Us! They Will Stop Degrading Us! They Will Not Control Us! We Will Be Victorious!”. The bigger the audience the more powerful that song!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band that talks so little and yet communicates so much with an audience. There is something about these songs being performed live with this production value that connects the crowd with the band. I’ve seen bands who don’t say anything and there is a disconnect between the two parties. That is not the case at a Muse concert. I felt so connected. Frontman Matt Bellamy moves all over the stage and all the way down the catwalk. Sings and plays his heart out. He doesn’t really have to say anything. In fact, there was one moment in the show where he let his guitar do the talking.
He’d play a note, but the note sounded like a voice because of the guitar effect. He’d play the note, and the crowd would respond by mimicking the note. Think Freddie Mercury with his “Ay Oh” from Live Aid but with a guitar. It was really cool. He got the crowd into it throughout the show, getting people to clap or sing along. He doesn’t need to say much. A simple look in their direction and the audience was all in.
Black Holes and Revelations was featured prominently at the end of the show with “Starlight” ending the main set and “Knights Of Cydonia” closing the show. I’m not sure how, but I always forget how mind-blowing “Knights Of Cydonia” is live. I can’t imagine a song following it. The song gallops until it paralyzes you with its “No One’s Gonna Take Me Alive” chorus followed by Muse exploding into a hard rock instrumental. The instrumental is joined by pyrotechnics lights and an ocean of people on the general admission floor jumping and going crazy. By the time the show ended, I was totally exhausted. Muse’s two-hour set flew by. I love seeing them live. I hope it doesn’t take another four years. It was a great night at Vivint Arena.